It’s spring. It’s time for my yearly column about renewal or rebirth. Time for my impassioned demand that we all support our farmers and attempt to grow something in our window boxes and tree pits. Time for my plea for more political action around clean air and water issues. For some reason, I just can’t bring myself to do it this year. That winter we just endured left me bitter and uninspired. Fortunately for us, I’ve been neglecting my mail so I have my pick of the letter litter for this issue’s column. Do all the stuff that I should be telling you to do. There’s no better time than the spring to get off your tush and make your street/neighborhood/world a better place.
Hypocrite, My mother takes care of my kids afterschool. I know I am insanely lucky but as you can imagine we have our share of difficulties. The main one is that she wants them to do things earlier than I want them to. For example, she taught my young son how to light a match and my older daughter how to carve a roasted chicken. I would never allow them to perform these duties. What happens when they try these activities unsupervised? I believe she’s being careless and putting them in danger. She laughs and tells me I’m paranoid. They are my kids. How do I get her to respect my wishes?
- Mad Mom in Flatbush
Although this isn’t exactly a parenting question, I need to reflect on how much I abhor parenting questions. Not only do I hate ostracizing the 63% of New Yorkers (and 2.9% of Park Slopers) who don’t have a child, I detest the idea of telling someone how to handle something so personal and important with a couple careless quips of a hypocritical and sarcastic nature. Also, parenting is such sensitive territory that I’m bound to get a lot of action in my mailbox —a mailbox that’s still full from when I told you all to stop being so fake nice to each other and grow a pair. (Did ya?)
But since this column goes against all I believe (what, me hypocrite-y?), I will now write half of it only for people who have changed or are in the process of changing a gazillion diapers. Childfree people, I’m sorry. Next column will be about the midnight, nude, nature hikes in Central Park that are parent-free by design (if these hikes don’t exist, they should).
Everyone who raised a kid feels that they could write a how-to book. Some don’t actually need to write, but will offer unsolicited advice instead, frequently to strangers. Riding the bus in Brooklyn gets me all the parenting advice I need. “Put a coat on that child.” “That child is hungry. Don’t you have any food?” “You need to take that child home and put it to bed.” Thank you. Thank you so much. I just got this kid yesterday and I am so thankful for your wonderful, sage advice.
That being said, now I will submit my list of parenting tips of things I have been doing very, very right. I admit I have done wrong. I keep the very, very wrong tip list in a safe place so my kids can’t bring it to the therapists they see when there are supposedly at “school.” I must confess some of the things on the very, very right list I really didn’t do at all. I include them because they are funny and because some (few) people religiously look to my column for distraction, not for practical help. If you are really in need of parenting help, please seek a professional. I am a non-licensed, free-of-charge life coach, not an authority on how to prevent your kids from abandoning you when you get old and overripe.
And to you clowns in the back row, know that I might repeat some things I’ve written about in the past. If that makes you mad and you feel like you’re not getting your money’s worth this issue, I refer you to the cost of this publication—free. That’s right, it’s free advice. If you want brand new advice, shell out six bucks for a copy of Glamour—a publication that never repeats itself (insert sarcastic eye roll here). This month, it lays out step-by-step instructions on how to moisturize after a shower. Finally! Mystery solved!
Here are my tips. The first one responds directly to the letter writer.
For cripes sake, teach your children skills. So many parents won’t let their kids pour milk, let alone light a match. I can hear you saying, “My kid will slice his finger off or light the house on fire.” OK, if you really think that is a realistic concern, then wait another year. But don’t keep your child in the dark with only a spoon for defense because of your over-protective leanings. I let my own kid light a match at six, supervised. At eight I will teach him how to use a knife, supervised. Am I a whacko? Maybe. Will I wake up with a knife in my back in a bed on fire? I really don’t think so. (If I do, this column is going to be famous!) If you really are nervous about fire and knives, at least teach them how to use a can opener. Your kids should learn how to make soup so they can take care of you when you get the flu.
Talk about emotions: bad moods, silly moods, quiet moods, etc. Foster their emotional intelligence. This will help define your actions when they appear erratic. “Mommy was in a very, very angry mood,” you can say after you kick the dishwasher with your clog and dent the door preventing it from closing ever again.
Make your kids promise that when they get to be teenagers and they tell you that they hate you it will be because their hormones are out of control. Make them say that they love you very much and always will, forever. Get it on tape. Play it back for them when they tell you they hate you. Laugh hysterically.
Don’t tell your kids how bad you suck at math or how much you hate your job. Lie if questioned. If you can’t lie, get better at math and get a new job. You are a role model. Stop bitching about things. They will repeat every thing you say. The parenting challenge is to nurture a human being into someone better than you. Avoid creating a younger version of you with your same limitations, prejudices and hang-ups.
Give away your children’s neglected toys when they are at school. Chances are they won’t remember them at all. If they do, you can tell them the truth or you can fake-look for a while and tell them it will turn up like mommy’s earring did that time. It can be very mysterious when a once-treasured tricycle goes missing, but weirder things have happened. This might be a good time to tell them about Roswell, New Mexico.
When you drop the F-bomb (for the old-timers: the swear word that rhymes with “tuck”) tell your kids that some words are reserved for adults. They are very special and used only in times of great adult stress. They haven’t experienced adult stress yet. When they do, they can feel free to use the special word.
Let your kids get bored. But, tell them if they tell you how bored they are, you will take money out of their piggy bank. One dollar for every time they use the word “bored.” Fifty cents for every heavy sigh.
And lastly, try to reclaim some of your pre-kid character when you didn’t worry about BPAs and wannabe bullies at your local school. Do something you wouldn’t do with your son or daughter watching. Or maybe with anyone watching. Did I just tell you to pick your nose? Maybe, if that’s the first thing you thought of. There’s a song on the Free to Be You and Me soundtrack with the lyrics: “Parents are people. People with children. People with children who used to be kids, but then they grew.” I didn’t realize my mom was a person until she locked us out of the house and dropped that previously named F-bomb when the ladder she had put up to the second story window to break in started falling back on her. After that, everything she did was up for consideration. Were hamburgers the best meal for a school night? Was red the right color for the hall throw rug? Did the mouse in our bread drawer have to be killed? Couldn’t we live together in mouse/man harmony? Even though I gave her a little more lip, I also acquired an itsy bit of empathy for the woman who fed and clothed me for so many years. Show your kid that you’re a person who just happens to be a parent. It will be good for both of you.
That’s all the parenting advice I can bear to give. Now I will make an abrupt change of subject, a move of which I am known for in the free-of-charge hypocritical life coach circles in which I run. Here’s a letter that has absolutely nothing, not one word, to do with being a parent.
Hypocrite, I am what you call “part of the solution.” I have a socially responsible job, I volunteer at my local soup kitchen; I belong to a CSA and shop at the farmer’s market, I am a passionate recycler; I will bring a tray of lasagna to a neighbor when they take ill. You get the idea. Recently, I’ve been doing bad things and can’t seem to help myself. In the past week I have eaten a whole carton of Little Debbie’s in one sitting, thrown three jumbo yogurt containers away in the regular trash, accused my dry cleaner of lying; stolen some shoelaces, and let my dog run in the playground when kids weren’t there. All of these behaviors have left me flush with excitement. I feel like I’m a schoolgirl again, sleeping with my English teacher. What happens next? Will I end up doing time?
- Mean in Queans
I’m stuck on shoelaces. You stole shoelaces? Honestly, everything else you did seems defendable but the stealing of shoelaces. Maybe I need more information on that one. Were your shoes falling off and you didn’t have any money? Were they your shoelaces originally? And wait, when you were a schoolgirl did you really sleep with your English teacher or was that just an expression? It’s hard to tell if you’re having a conscience crisis or if you’re crazypants. I’m just going to assume the former for the sake of brevity. This column is already running long.
OK Mean, I think that within your social community there’s a lot of pressure to Namaste and all that. Your dark side is yearning to be recognized and is in the midst of staging a teeny coup. There’s nothing wrong with scarfing down some highly processed snack cakes but I agree with your concern. You sound a little unhinged (if you weren’t already). At this point I have to tell you to see a professional because when I do that you can’t sue me. Now that I’ve done that, I’ll tell you that you should seek out things that feel good (in a bad girl kind of way) but don’t hurt anyone or anything. This brings me to everyone’s favorite subject, SEX. Are you getting any? Could you get some? Fast? I sincerely believe that getting laid is the answer to your problem. That’s usually the answer to most problems. Mine, anyway.
Well, that was simple. Thanks for the letters. They help out in a pinch. So, enjoy the spring. See you next time.